The bout is three years in the making after the two were selected as opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 28. Scheduled to face off in a middleweight title fight at UFC 234, then-champ Whittaker was scratched from the fight just hours before curtains when he suffered an abdominal hernia that required surgery. Gastelum went on to face Israel Adesanya for the interim middleweight title and lost the fight via unanimous decision. When Whittaker returned to defend his belt at UFC 243, Adesanya knocked him out to claim the undisputed title.
Since then, Whittaker has rebounded with wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier, while Gastelum has gone 1-2 with losses to Till and Jack Hermansson before a recent win against Ian Heinisch. The winner of the bout could get another shot at the middleweight belt.
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Round 1: Kelvin Gastelum didn’t waste any time getting to the octagon, while Robert Whittaker takes his time making the walk. Herb Dean is the third man in the cage and the main event is underway. Whittaker lands a leg kick early on, followed by a right cross counter. Gastelum lands a hard leg kick of his own and eats a Whittaker left for his troubles. Both guys exchange near the fence wall and Gastelum is pressuring forward, heavy leather being slung. Left hand and a right high kick stings Gastelum, Left hook from Bobby Knuckles lands flush as Gastelum still appears to be stunned. Whittaker gets double under hooks after Gastelum wings a right hand and takes it to the mat.
Short elbow from Whittaker lands as Gastelum is trying to tie up his opponents arms. Whittaker happy in half guard with just over a minute to go and lands a pair of left elbows. Final 20 seconds and Gastelum gets to his feet. Head kick attempt from Whittaker and easily gets the round.
MMAFigthing scores it 10-9 for Whittaker
Round 2: Whittaker looks sharp thus far as he looks to keep the momentum going. Hard combination from Gastelum to start the second and he shoots a single unsuccessfully. Gastelum throwing with vicious intent, but Whittaker does a nice job avoiding damage and landing a pair of jabs. Leg kick from Whittaker and Gastelum pressures forward with a left hand. Right hand thrown from Gastelum, Whittaker gets double unders and takes it back down, only for a moment. Back to the feet and Whittaker lands a jab followed by a left hook.
Right hand from Whittaker lands and Gastelum is starting to show it on his face. Whittaker with another clean right hand, Gastelum answers with a left hook. Final 90 seconds of the round and Whittaker lands a combination up top, followed by a hard leg kick. Left hand over the top from Whittaker, Gastelum lands and now Whittaker is starting to show it. Head kick partially lands for Whittaker as Gastelum tries to chase him down. Beautiful jab from the former champion and Gastelum clinches up. Final 15 seconds and Whittaker gets double under hooks to gain separation. Leg kick from Gastelum checked as the horn sounds.
MMAFighting scores the round 10-9 for Whittaker. 20-18 overall
Round 3: Gastelum is showing his toughness through two but he needs to make something happen here. Hard leg kicks from Whittaker opens the third. Gastelum lands a left hand then throws a kick that hits Whittaker low. Herb Dean stops it temporarily and it the action resumes. High kick from Whittaker and Gastelum lands a hard left that gets Whittaker’s attention. Big right hand from Whittaker and Gastelum showing an incredible chin. Left hand to a high kick attempt from Whittaker slightly scores.
Leg kick and a jab to the chest from Whittaker. Right hand from Whittaker lands hard, kick to the body as well. Hard leg kick again from Whittaker, Gastelum is swinging for the fences still. Final 90 seconds of the round and they tie up in the center momentarily before Whittaker lands a stiff jab. Counter left hook from Whittaker stings Gastelum. Big combination from Whittaker ends with a hard leg kick. High kick lands and Whittaker takes Gastelum down for less than a second. Final seconds of the round and another hard leg kick ends a Whittaker combination. Clean sweep through three for Bobby Knuckles.
MMAFighting scores the round 10-9 for Whittaker. 30-27 overall
Round 4: Gastelum still bouncing around after taking heavy leg kicks. Hard elbow lands from Gastelum but Whittaker answers with a three strike combination. Another leg kick lands from Whittaker and a flying knee attempt behind it that comes up just short. They trade shots in the center, Whittaker throws a high kick, blocked by Gastelum. Whittaker lands a short elbow in close. Uppercut lands from Whittaker, followed by a 1, 2 up the middle.
Gastelum now bleeding from the ear as Whittaker goes up top with another kick. Gastelum still marching forward, Whittaker landing at will. Right hand lands from Gastelum and a jab as well. Whittaker lands a stiff jab and a combination behind it. Final minute of the round and Whittaker lands another hard leg kick. Gastelum shoots in and lands a takedown. Whittaker gets up immediately and lands a left hand. Short elbow inside from “The Reaper,” Gastelum still trying to move forward and make something happen. Hard leg kick from Whittaker and a combination behind it as the round ends. 4-0 Whittaker.
MMAFighting scores the round 10-9 for Whittaker. 40-36 overall
Round 5: Gastelum needs a finish if he wants to win his second straight fight. Whittaker has a high kick blocked and Gastelum charges in looking for the KO. They trade shots near the fence. Gastelum throws a jab and Whittaker clinches up as they work towards the fence. They separate and head to the center. Whittaker circling right avoiding any damage from Gastelum. High kick from Whittaker keeping Gastelum guessing. Left hand from Gastelum as he’s beginning to slow down a bit.
Left hook from Whittaker, combination behind it, Gastelum answers with a counter right hand. Left hand from Gastelum tags Whittaker. Front kick catches the chin of Gastelum at the halfway point of the final round. Step in elbow from Whittaker, who shoots in for a single and gets the takedown. Whittaker has Gastelum in the center of the octagon after landing his third takedown in six attempts. Whittaker with heavy pressure up top as he looks to mount. Big right hand lands as Whittaker takes the back of Gastelum, mounting him briefly. Gastelum gets back to his feet before Whittaker takes him back down with both hooks in. Whittaker with double under hooks, Gastelum scrambles back to full guard. That’s where this one ends. Great performance from Whittaker.
MMAFighting scores the round 10-9 for Whittaker. 50-45 overall
OFFICIAL RESULT: Robert Whittaker def. Kelvin Gastelum via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)